Khamis, 22 Ogos 2013

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The Star Online: Metro: Central

'Celebrate achievers, not envy them'


Singapore should continue to celebrate those who have done well and given back to society, not envy them, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

"We must maintain a social climate which encourages excellence and success, instead of envying them and wanting to pull them down," he said on Tuesday night as he presented awards from Malay daily newspaper Berita Harian to celebrate the achievements of two individuals in the community.

One was cardiologist Abdul Razakjr Omar, 43, who became the first Malay heart specialist in Singapore at 35. He received the annual Berita Harian Achiever of the Year Award.

The other was undergraduate Adil Hakeem Mohamad Rafee, 20, who made history last year as the first Malay in 44 years to be awarded the President's Scholarship. He was given the inaugural Berita Harian Inspiring Young Achiever Award for young Malays aged 30 and below.

And coming days after a National Day Rally speech where he announced that the government will do more to shield Singaporeans from harsh market forces, Lee stressed that the ethos of Singapore society must be preserved.

This means "to identify and develop talent, to celebrate those who have done well and contributed back to society", he said.

It also encourages others to emulate these people and "go forth and do great deeds", he added at the gala dinner at a hotel.

He said winners of the Berita Harian Achiever of the Year, now in its 15th year, were role models.

"They inspire others, especially the younger ones, to do their best, for themselves and for the community. And it is critical to do so, as our youth are our future," he said.

He stressed the societal responsibility to develop the potential of young people, especially through education and by keeping society open and mobile.

They should also be encouraged to give back to society and the country, he said, such as through the volunteer youth corps that he first spoke of in his National Day Rally address.

He returned to the theme of that speech, in which he said Singapore is at a turning point and needs to forge a new way forward in order to thrive. In this new way, individuals do their best, while the government and the community do more to support individuals, and together build a better Singapore for future generations.

"And indeed this is how the Malay/Muslim community has progressed over the years," Lee said to the 300 dinner guests. "You are a good example of the 'gotong-royong' spirit that we like to see in Singapore."

Lee also praised Berita Harian for being not just a newspaper, but an important platform to engage and strengthen the Malay/Muslim community.

It continues to hold its own by renewing itself, in the face of changing language and social habits, as well as competition from social media, he said.

These include more interesting and uplifting news content, many stories of the community and individuals doing well, and new platforms to boost readership, including a new digital edition of the newspaper in the works.

Berita Harian editor Saat Abdul Rahman said in a speech that it will revamp its news website cyBerita and launch new platforms on Twitter, Facebook and mobile apps.

Adil Hakeem, who left for the United States on Saturday to pursue a liberal arts course at Yale University, was represented by his parents Mohamad Rafee Salleh and Zulinah Mooksan, both 52.

Dr Abdul Razakjr, who grew up in a rental flat, now mentors secondary students for the health profession.

He attributes his success to the sacrifices and hard work modelled by his parents: "My mother believed that if you have hands and legs, you do not need to ask help from others." — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

More jail time for loan shark runners


LOAN SHARK runners will be slapped with as many as three extra months in jail if they are caught harassing debtors' neighbours.

High Court Justice Tay Yong Kwang seemed to set this sentencing guideline in judgment grounds released yesterday, when he nearly doubled runner Quek Li Hao's punishment from 14 to 24 months after an appeal by the prosecution.

The judge made it clear that loan sharks cannot be allowed to treat innocent neighbours as "mere collateral damage".

"In my view, offenders who knowingly harass innocent persons ... ought to be given an imprisonment term of two to three months higher than the benchmark sentence of 12 months' imprisonment."

Lawyers said this could set a precedent for lower district courts.

"When such cases are heard, district courts will take an ever more serious view of aggravating factors like the harassment of neighbours," said lawyer Kertar Singh.

In March, Quek, who pleaded guilty to four counts of harassment, was sentenced by a district judge to 14 months' jail and 12 strokes of the cane. Seven additional counts were taken into consideration.

But prosecutors argued that the sentences were "manifestly inadequate".

The 38-year-old former sales manager and university dropout had splashed paint and sprayed graffiti in six different areas all around the island, including Ang Mo Kio, Hougang and Pasir Ris.

The judge agreed the punishment was not enough. But what caught his attention was that in one of the four charges, Quek splashed paint on a flat neighbouring the debtor's unit, "causing needless annoyance and duress".

Grassroots leaders hope that Justice Tay's pronouncement will deter loan sharks from going after a debtor's neighbours.

Vice-chairman for Tampines Polyview Residents' Committee (RC) Philip Loh pointed to the long corridors in Housing Board blocks which make next-door neighbours easy prey. "It is unfair when they are affected," he said.

Muhammad Faruk, an RC chairman who takes charge of about a dozen blocks in Hougang Central, hopes loan sharks will now get the message that their harassment is a serious crime.

Nadira Aljunied, 31, was herself an incidental victim. The MacPherson resident found her door splashed with paint last year. She said the judge's heavier sentence was a "good idea".

"It's not our fault and it's unfair," said Nadira, who is unemployed. — The Straits Times/ Asia News Network


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